Much of how children are affected depends on how their parents handle the divorce process. Parents who end their marriage in a mature and healthy way can reduce the negative effects of divorce on their children.
Being sensitive to how each child is reacting to and handling this difficult experience is also very important. Here are a few ways parents can help their children handle divorce.
- Make certain the children understand they did not cause the divorce.
- Explain to the children the reasons for the divorce, using common sense as a guide.
- Allow the children to express their feelings about the divorce.
- Do not lie or withhold information from the children that will help them better understand the reasons for the divorce.
- Be sensitive to how each child is handling the divorce.
- Help the children feel secure by showing love and commitment to them.
- See that each child’s behavior remains appropriate to his or her current stage of development.
- Allow the children to adjust to the divorce at their own rates.
- Help the children maintain their usual routines.
- Set a good example for the children by handling the divorce in a mature and healthy way.
- Determine custody based on a rational decision that meets the needs and best interests of the children.
- Maintain regular contacts between the absent parent and the children.
- Do not expect a child to fill the absent parent’s shoes.
- Do not tamper with the children’s love or loyalty to the other parent.
- Do not ask the children to take sides against the other parent.
- Do not say bad things about the other parent.
- Do not attempt to buy the children’s affections by playing “weekend Santa.”
- Do not use the children as messengers or question them about the other parent.
- Spend time alone with each child so that he or she will feel like a special individual.
by Walter Brown, PhD